Over this howling northern wind, I can hear it calling to me. It is currently 35 degrees out but in my head I am lying on a beach in front of crystal blue water…
My imagination has been running away from me lately. Conor and I are having a blast playing the “what-if” game and researching tons of marinas down in the Caribbean. It has started to sink in that by this time next year, we will be GONE! It is both exciting and terrifying as we try to get our rears in gear. Not only are we leaving the country, but the active duty “security blanket” as well. Here is our marina wishlist so far:
U.S. territory so work visas will not be an issue that first year
reasonable liveaboard prices+pets allowed
good diving opportunities
great daysailing to other islands
dock amenities like storage and laundry
The biggest shock during our research has been the prices! I know we’ve had it pretty good at Gottschalk with $5 per foot per month, but most places down in the islands are $20 per foot per month. Ouch! But in some cases, the amenities are totally worth it. Here is our top contender right now on St. Croix USVI: http://www.tamarindreefresort.com/marina-en.html
I mean, come on! It would be a dream to stay there, we just have to find a way to make it happen. Good thing we still have 11 months to plan! We are prowling cruisers forums for other recommendations for a home base next year. If you have a marina you’d recommend, please reach out and let us know!
This is our third recap video! Check out 2017 and 2018 if you need a blast from the past before watching 2019!
So much has happened this year—Conor took a trip to Norway and also graduated from WTI. I published my second book and wrote a third. W is speaking in complete sentences and scooter-ing down the docks like a madwoman. I can’t believe we have a 2-year-old!
This year was also filled with visits from family and friends, epic sails and sunsets, and (probably) too many cocktails.
Here’s the wrap up! The accompanying song is “Wars” by the Strumbellas (thanks for a great time, Nashville!)
I hope you spent the day surrounded by people you love. Our clan stayed put in North Carolina this year instead of making the cross-country trek to Seattle. After an insanely busy summer and fall, Conor, W, and I needed time to reconnect as a nuclear family and just slow down. While we miss our extended families up in the Pacific Northwest, we’ve actually had a vacation this week!
Now that W is almost 2, she understands Santa, presents, and patience. As parents, Conor and I were finally able to experience the excitement of Christmas morning through the eyes of our child. We had been planning on getting her a micro scooter for months, and the look on her face when she saw it was priceless.
I’ve been reflecting a lot on family tradition this month. I have so many fond memories of this season while growing up—eating kringle, putting up lights outside with my dad, lifting my sister up to put the angel up on top of the tree, my mom’s hand-sewn stockings… Funny how very little of the memories have anything to do with the gifts I received and were about family time instead. I wonder what will stick with W when she is older. So far, a love of kringle and rocking out to Trans-Siberian Orchestra have been passed down, but we are also starting some of our own traditions, some of which include a breakfast lollipop and outdoor scooter adventures.
Maybe one day our Christmas tradition will include sending actual Christmas cards out. I feel like that is still one last ‘adulthood’ threshold I need to cross. I am in awe of people who a) not only keep an up-to-date address book but b) get them out on time. Until then, at least I have this blog? If you need me, I’ll be racing my daughter’s scooter down the dock and embracing my inner child today.
Sun’s out, tools out! Almost everyone at Gottschalk Marina took advantage of a rare sunny and calm weekend to tackle some winter boat chores.
On Story Time, Conor completed a project he’s been planning since summer—installing secondary AC power! We now have two 30-amp power cords that run to the boat, which will allow us to run additional space heaters if temperatures drop too low this winter. Between this and the new batteries he installed this summer, he is quite the boat electrical expert by this point! I’m no longer scared of accidental electrocution. If you want a step-by-step guide or need some advice for your own boat, please email us through the contact page! We are happy to help.
Boaters were out in full force on B-dock. Even though it was almost perfect sailing weather, nobody left! There was a joyous camaraderie with everyone working their butts off and lending a hand to whomever needed it. There was teak scrubbing, bimini installation, deck cleaning, painting, engine repairs, and more happening on Sunday. Best of all, the new NO WAKE buoy was installed! Hooray for a safer marina!
There’s no telling when the next gorgeous weekend will be this winter, but hopefully we can take advantage of it with the sails up!
Yep, you read the title right. 130 people. I have no idea what possessed me to say yes to this crazy plan, but I’m so glad we did! Story Time volunteered to be one of the stops for the Camp Lejeune Officer Spouses Club “Tour of Homes” this holiday season.
First, I had to learn what a “Tour of Homes” actually was—I guess it isn’t a big thing where we’re from on the west coast? It happens around Christmastime and people buy tickets to walk through houses and look at all the festive decorations. In this case, everyone who offered to be a stop on the OSC tour also planned a particular theme, signature appetizer, and alcoholic drink. The 2019 tour this past weekend included a total of six homes scattered around base plus one surprise—US!
The other homes looked incredible. I was blown away at the attention to detail and unique looks with the Nightmare Before Christmas house, a mid-century modern vibe (think Mad Men!), and a Harry Potter wonderland. Amid such creativity, I was so nervous that people would be let down with our “Caribbean Christmas” theme and wayyyyyy fewer decorations than our counterparts. I was also watching the weather obsessively and praying that high winds and rain would stay away because we planned an indoor/outdoor event.
Here is the little blurb I wrote up for the brochure to introduce our lifestyle:
Permission to come aboard Story Time, our 38-foot Catalina sailboat! She has been home to our family of three (+dog) since early 2017. In order to become full-time liveaboards, we embraced a minimalist mindset and downsized 95% of our belongings. Everything we own now has a place and a purpose, which can make decorating for the holidays a bit challenging. Even with space limitations, our boat is still cozy and festive when all dressed up!
We decided on a Caribbean Christmas theme to represent our cruising dreams. This time next year, we will cast off and head south to island-hop for the foreseeable future. For now, we want everyone to relax during the flurry of the holiday season and remind you that “every little thing is gonna be all right”.
So, kick off your shoes, let down your hair, and drink some rum. For us, the Christmas spirit is about being surrounded by people you love. The USMC holds a special place in our hearts, and we hope yours opens to our way of life!
I hoped it set the tone for the evening to come, but I was freaking out at the thought of hosting 130 people on board over the course of 3 hours. Thankfully, they arrived in groups of about 20 and stayed for 20 min before moving on to the next house. It was enough time to send everyone down for a look belowdecks with my amazing docent and fellow liveaboard, Corri. Conor was also a great sport and cooked 40 lbs of jerk chicken to make the chilled jerk chicken and pineapple skewers while keeping everyone boozed up with a delicious rum punch.
The Gottschalk Marina family was supportive throughout the event and didn’t mind one bit that 130 strangers marched through their backyard. I had so many helpers lend us decorations, tables, tents, lights, serving trays, custom crafts, and recipes. We begged, borrowed, and stole 😉 our way through the event and in true minimalist fashion, only really spent money on food and drink. It would not have been possible without them! True boater love.
I think we were a hit. Dozens of people were intrigued by our tiny living, travel capabilities, and close-knit lifestyle. Many walked away with my business card directing them to this blog to answer further questions, so if you’re new here and learned about us from the tour, welcome! If you’re looking for downsizing tips, check out this link. If you’re looking for information on how to buy a boat and live aboard, check out this post!
Here’s a look at our tour setup:
During the season of consumerism, it was a great way to show how much you can do with so little!
Fun fact: It’s been just me, W, and Scout on the boat since Hurricane Dorian. During the evacuation, Conor had to leave to attend a military school for two months on the west coast. HE JUST CAME HOME!
Let me tell you, it has not been easy. Major props to single parents out there. I’ve been going going going for weeks with no break. Also, I’ve had to do all the dirty boat chores AND handle an increasingly opinionated toddler. In the past two months, I’ve done 3 pump outs, fixed the central air twice, hauled laundry/groceries/garbage up the docks more times than I can count, shuttled W to swim EVERY DAY+ story time, gymnastics, tot time, and park visits. Itsy bitsy spider and baby shark haunted my dreams. There was either a child clinging to me or a dog in my lap 24/7. My autonomy disappeared.
And I really, really, really missed my adventure partner in all of this.
I know I’ve been sparse with updates recently, but I’ll get back to posting more frequently instead of collapsing on the couch at the end of each day. Thankfully, this was the last major hurdle before the reserves next year. Now that it’s done (and he kicked butt at the school!) we can focus on sailing, cruising prep, and time as a family again. The Marine Corps ball is next week, and we are taking the boat down to Wilmington for 5 nights. Stay tuned for trip updates and see if these boat people can get fancy.
Stroller. Life jacket. Sailing harness. Elephant leash. Lillebaby backpack.
W does not leave the boat without one of these devices. People make jokes when they see my toddler on a leash but Scout running free on the docks. My response? “I trust my dog more than I trust my kid not to fall into the water.” Also, Scout can swim. Little kids are complete egoists with no semblance of self-preservation. Their curiosity knows no bounds. They also like to do the exact opposite of what you tell them.
I encourage W to test her limits daily. She climbs, falls, runs, swings, and plays harder than any kid I’ve met. She makes mistakes and learns from them. Part of this ‘run wild, my child’ mindset is fostering a way and an environment where she can do that independently—but not around water just yet. That’s why I signed W up for ISR.
ISR is a swim program that teaches survival swimming to infants and toddlers. It is an intensive course that runs Monday through Friday for 6-8 weeks straight. Lessons are only 10 minutes per day, but at the end of this program W will be able to fall face-first and fully clothed into the pool, flip herself over, and float on her back. She will learn how to save herself. Here is a link to the website for more information. Be aware, some of the stories are tear-jerkers!
Of course, ISR training is NOT a substitute for child supervision around water. It will just add extra piece of mind in case, God forbid, she ends up in the river. As scary as it is to consider this happening, I need to give my child all the tools I can to support her, especially considering our lifestyle.
We’ve got one full week under our belts. I say ‘we’ because the time and money commitment to this as parents is no joke. W is also understanding that sometimes we must be comfortable with being uncomfortable in order to learn new skills. I just know that it will all be worth it in the end, and she will be SO PROUD of herself for learning to swim.